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Checklist for formatting MLA style papers: Writing & formatting


This handout gives general tips on how to format a paper in MLA style. These are guidelines only; your instructor has the final say on which MLA style elements are required for a given assignment.
For help with citing using MLA, including many more examples, see the SFU Library's MLA citation guide or consult the MLA Handbook.


See Section 4 of the MLA Handbook (7th edition, 2009)

MLA does not require a specific font, but we recommend Times New Roman size 12.

Double space all lines of your paper, including all lines of the Works Cited list.

Use 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins on all sides.

Include your last name and the page number on the top right-hand corner of each page.

Unless requested by your instructor to include a title page, start your first page with the following four lines, double spaced and flush left:

Your name
Your instructor’s name
Course name and section
Paper due date

Place your paper title centered on the page below the previous four lines. Do not bold, italicize, or underline your title.

In-text formatting

See Section 6 of the MLA Handbook (7th edition, 2009). For more citation help, including examples, see the SFU Library's MLA citation guide

Cite all sources that contributed to your work, whether you paraphrased the source or quoted it directly. Any ideas not your own -- even if you wrote the idea in your own words -- must be cited.

Italicize and capitalize all major words of any titles you include in your own sentence. Example:

It’s a Wonderful Life is the first film Jimmy Stewart acted in after fighting in the Second World War.

To cite a book or article, list the author's last name followed by the page number in parentheses without any other punctuation. If you incorporate the author's name in the text of your paper, provide only the page number in parentheses. Examples:

University students have busy schedules (Simms 205).

Simms suggests that university students have busy schedules (205).

If there are two or three authors, spell out the word "and" between their names. Example:

(Smith and Jones 47).

If there are more than three authors, include the first author and the words ‘et al.’ and the page number. Do not underline or italicize ‘et al.’

(Andersen et al. 396)

If a quotation is more than four lines when typed into your paper:

  1. introduce the quote with your own sentence followed by a colon
  2. begin the quotation on a new line that is indented by 1 inch or 2.54 cm
  3. double-spaced the quotation and do not surrounded by quotation marks, and
  4. place the period before the parenthetical citation.


At the conclusion of the Lord of the Flies, Ralph and the other boys realize the horrors of their actions:

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (Golding, 186)

Works cited list

See Section 5 of the MLA Handbook (7th edition, 2009). For more citation help, including examples, see the SFU Library's MLA citation guide

Start the reference list on a new page and give it the following title, which should be centred on the page: Works Cited. Do not bold, italicize, or underline this title

If a citation is more than one line, the second line is indented by 0.5 inches (1.25 cm).

The first author's name should be written with the author’s last name first (Unsworth, Len). Write all others with the author’s first name first (John Thompson).

Alphabetize by author’s last name or by company name if the work has a corporate author (e.g., Canadian Broadcast Company). If there is no author, alphabetize by title.

Include the medium of publication consulted at the end of the citation. This could be "print", "web" (for websites and articles from online databases), "film", or another descriptive medium type.

When citing a book

Capitalize the first word and all major words of all book titles and subtitles.

If several cities are listed in the book for publication, list only the first.

If the name of the publisher includes ‘University Press’ it can be shortened to "UP." Examples:

Broer, Lawrence R., and Gloria Holland. Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2002. Print.

Johnson, Roberta. Gender and Nation in the Spanish Modernist Novel. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2003. Print.

When citing a journal article

For an article found online, include the following elements: Author. "Article Title." Journal Title volume number.issue number (year): pages. Database. Web. Date of access. E.g.:

Hernández-Reguant, Ariana. “Copyrighting Che: Art and Authorship under Cuban Late Socialism.” Public Culture 16.1 (2004): 1-29. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct 2013.

For an article in print, include the following elements: Author. "Article Title." Journal Title volume number.issue number (year): pages. Print.

When citing a website

List in order any of these that are applicable: Author. “Webpage title”. Website title. Version. Site publisher or sponsor, date of publication. Medium of publication. Date of access.

If the webpage is a stand-alone page, italicize the title. If the webpage is part of a larger website, place the title of the webpage in quotation marks and the title of the larger website in italics.

The name of the larger website is often the same name as the site publisher or sponsor. If no publisher or site sponsor is available include the letters N.p.

Dates of publication or access should be formatted as follows: day, month (written abbreviation), year

Include a URL only if it would be very difficult for the reader to locate the information without one. Examples:

Example: Whimfield, Laura-Jane. “Country Driveway Gets a Face Lift.” Whimfield: Modern Pre-Industrial Living. N.p., 28 Oct. 2009. Web. 6 Nov. 2009.

Example: Salda, Michael N. The Cinderella Project. Vers 1.2. U of Southern Mississippi, 7 Oct. 2005. Web. 15 May 2008.

For more help and many more citation examples see the SFU Library's MLA citation guide or consult the MLA Handbook.